My future obit 2056 #letsblogoff

For a brief intermission, today isLets Blog Off . A group of design and construction folks blog on one topic. Thanks to a twisted survey (which I believe was stacked by our ringleaderPaul Anater), we are pondering our obits, linkedhere.

Future_cities

Cynthia Henley Frewen Wuellner Moon (

@urbanverse), 100, died at her home on Tolopia, a floating city near the former Maldives Islands. For a quarter century, she designed new towns made entirely of junk for disappearing small island nations. After a rowdy parade through the city, her ashes were cast to the sea by six generations of family and friends. A wild beach party of singing, dancing, and feasting lasted three days.

Davis_district_aerial

Earlier in her life, Cindy founded an architecture firm in Kansas City and designed the downtown Davis Park and Civic Center, KC Zoo, Whittaker Courthouse interiors, Police HQ, City Hall Addition, fifty schools and numerous public housing developments. Among her awards, she was the first woman Fellow AIA in the region, first KC Woman Owned Business of the Year, Distinguished Alumna of the University of Kansas, and so on…

Of her ten books, five were listed as New York Times Bestsellers, three in urban futures and two in science fiction. After earning an MS in FS/forecasting from the University of Houston and a doctorate in communication studies from the University of Kansas, Cindy taught students from thirty-three countries, visited the Space Station and cycled across India. She loved puppies but only had one, Lexy, who never barked.   

Black-poodle-puppy

(re: the

ABC’s of 21st Century Cities, C is for Co-creating will be posted shortly.)

 

21st century cities: B is for Backward Futures

Here’s my January series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. Yesterday I explored the Artificial Intelligence. Today we’re moving onto B.

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I love Venice Italy. It feels like it’s made by its people. Far more than shelter, the city was their outerwear. They embodied it, creating hidden niches and twisted routes, commanding and confusing outsiders.

When there, I feel like I am living in a dream. I am immersed in a distinctive urban experience filled with tactile, sensory experiences. Yet it’s real. Venice exists. How did they build a dream?

Backward futures draw upon the sensory life, the connection between people and place, and the art of crafting things that existed before intensive automation. The engine and the computer chip fundamentally changed us and how we make, use, and know cities.

The value of resourceless

During the Depression, global unemployment sat at 25% for most of a decade. People learned lessons that created the Greatest Generation. According to Strauss and Howe, the next generation will develop a similar philosophy. The conflict that pulls us out of this high unemployment may be the way we develop cities and our lifestyles.

Shrinking_populations_2050_eco
  •     Instead of only growth, many developed nations including Europe, China, and some American regions will be shrinking and aging. Frugality lessons will abound.
  •     For the past seventy years, cities have prospered by strong growth. For the next fifty years, quality is key, an important topic I cover in more detail in future posts.

Slow cities

Inspired by a similar movement in slow food, Citta Slow and the Slow Movement reject fast food, fast highways, and fast living in favor of mindfulness and attention. They aim to reassert mindful living and connection to the land, food, and other people as an anti-dote to stress.In bioregionalism and localism (similarly permaculture), people buy local, organically grown food, shop in locally owned stores, and connect to a regional identity based on indigenous resources and historic patterns (reference Alexander ‘Timeless Way of Building’ and Mouzon’s ‘The Original Green‘).

They create community economic development (CED) collectives to build networks for education, housing, health, and environmental needs.

Copenhagen_western_harbour

Cities for people

Jan Gehl calls this back-to-the-future approach “cities for people.” His aim: lively, safe, sustainable, and healthy cities. He cites fewer streets and highways like San Francisco, bike paths like Copenhagen’s, better streets like Melbourne, and pedestrian paths like Venice. He says cities are meeting places “by the people and for the people.” Rather than cities based on streets for cars, we have life between buildings.A people-first strategy is obvious in highly walkable cities like Zurich, New York, and San Francisco.

  •     Encourage people to stay, not take the fastest route out of the city.
  •     Make cars uncomfortable by mixing them with other traffic.
  •     Increase congestion rather than decrease it.
  •     Have lovely attractions like restaurants, shopping, public spaces and interesting streets.
  •     People like to be where there are people. Create places for sitting and watching.

Simple cities

Who knows the life of walking, biking, and carriage rides more than the Amish? What do you imagine cities would look like based on their principles?

  •     Primary uses within walking distance
  •     Narrow shaded streets to accommodate horse carriages, bikes and walking
  •     Lower scale buildings that house work and living spaces
  •     Gardens growing food, barns with farm animals, chickens, etc
  •     Making things – furniture, food, clothing
  •     Community spaces for meetings, events, entertainment and education
If we add scale to the buildings, broadband, lightrail, solar and wind power, the simple city would likely reduce our eco-footprint to half that of typical urban westerners. And still be fitting and livable for contemporary lifestyles.
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End of the suburban development pattern

New urbanism re-introduced the values of traditional neighborhoods as an anti-dote to suburbs: mixed use, tight lots, increased density, walkable streets, excellent public spaces, smaller retail/residential, cars to the back, front porches, and extra dwellings at the rear. As sustainable development interests grew, the two movements found common ground in compact growth.

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While this back-to-the-future solution solves walkability issues, cars still dominate, detracting from the original aspirations. In town centers, parking lots fill the land. In the residential blocks, people come and go in cars. Only when cars become a second, third or even fourth transportation option (after walking, biking, and buses/transit) do energy, livability, and health metrics improve.A long list of trends reduce the role of the car: communication technologies, business practices from hierarchies to networks, changing job patterns, increased energy costs, carbon emissions, desire for better lifestyles, health concerns, aging, and extended families that can relieve daycare trips.

  •     Models for refurbishing suburban neighborhoods are slowly emerging. The Sprawl Repair Manual makes unused space functional. Streets and sidewalks are connected. Residential and commercial infill large yards and parking lots.
  •     Car-free or limited-car developments are increasing.
  •     Rather than houses and buildings as expenses, make them into producers – energy, farming, home office, day care – much as the family farm or shop once serve as the center of income.
  •     Transportation shifts from auto-dominated to a mix of walking, biking, transit, and cars including car sharing.

B stands for buses and biking; both are useful backward futures.

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The untech city

I didn’t write this post as a balance to yesterday’s high-tech AI, although perhaps subconsciously I did. While AI, IT, and augmented reality extend our knowledge and experience of places, they also filter our connections to the sensory experience of place.In the backward future city, we can be more present, more mindful, more attentive to our whole self, and actively spatially engaged while frequently AI favors the brain and eyes.

For example, do you find that you sit too still when you’re at a computer? When I draw by hand, I stand and move. At a keyboard, I am in a frozen position, only my hands and eyes moving.

Cities, buildings, and work spaces should make us move. And they should fit like outerwear. Like Venice.

Next, C is for Co-creating.

Images: Copenhagen, Venice, Amish County, PA, Suburban fix from The Sprawl Repair Manual, Shrinking populations 2050

 

21st century cities: A is for Artificial Intelligence

Yesterday, I introduced a January series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. Today’s the first letter A.

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What does the term artificial intelligence (AI) make you think of? How about singularity? These innovations represent a holy grail for many technologists. An exclusive institution called the Singularity Universityoffers an intensive summer grad program. The teachers and staff rank among the best thinkers in the world, including some of my friends and colleagues. In their first few years of operation, they have shined a bright spotlight on the idea of super-human intelligence.

What is AI?

AI is generally defined as machines that are smarter than human intelligence. The Turing Test, the primary bellwether, simply asks a computer to conduct a conversation without the human knowing she/he is talking to a computer. In urban terms, an AI system perceives its environment and responds to successfully complete a particular job.

For cities, the most intriguing are networks of machines that aggregate data, respond, and adapt without our intervention. The machines seem self-aware and learn, the technological singularity . Machines surpass our ability to understand or control them.

Ray Kurzweil believes that by 2020 or so, computers will reach human brain capacity and by 2045, they will self-invent, no longer dependent on our creativity or intervention.

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The Singularity University identifies three tracks divided into specializations: technology (robotics, nanotech, computers, biotech, and medicine/neuroscience), resources (futures, law, finance), and application (space and energy). Technology and innovation, the engine of business, are the heart of AI.

Should we fear super-intelligent self-improving machines the size of a city?

Do you remember HAL9000, the computer in Arthur C. Clark’s Space Odyssey and the film 2001 Space Odyssey? The fear of AI is the human fear of all machines: they will own us. Collective super-intelligence the size of a city will be the most potent weapon and/or collaborative experience ever invented.In Zuboff’s In The Age of the Smart Machine, she analyzes the qualitative differences we experienced when we moved from a society of artisans to button pushers.We are particularly clumsy at seeing the long-term consequences of innovations.

  •     It’s possible that machines will supply ideas, but that we will still be the makers, even more than we are today, through co-creating and DIY. Six billion brains will still be the largest form of intelligence on earth. Technology weaves that collective capacity even more tightly.
  •     We trade our freedoms and privacy every day for access to something else. A few voices will try to protect our sovereign rights but they will go largely unheard because we are only being protected from ourselves.

Will AI control transportation?

 

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Computers already control our traffic systems. We drive our cars over a buried sensor and it switches the traffic signal. Or a set of sensors time our highway progress and notifies other drivers of travel times. Are they AI? Not really. That’s fairly simple analysis of historic behavior not anticipating or adapting. Airplanes and trains have long been controlled by autopilot computers. Google, Stanford, and MIT have road tested autonomic driving, or self-driving robotic cars. Our cars are already robots in terms of automation. Computers are rapidly making cars smarter and better drivers than us from self-parking to crash avoidance. Frankly, based on 40k US deaths/year, we desperately need their help.

  •     Cars are well on their way to becoming one big swarm more concerned with each other than with us.
  •     Eventually, rather than competing modes of transportation, light rail, buses and cars may have more in common than not.
  •     Mobility freedom is not only control but also access, representation in decisions, and choice.
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Big brother may not be the power company; it may be you and me.If we are generating and capturing energy to share and sell others, the AI/smart grid becomes our partner, the tool for a new source of income. However, if we are at the mercy of power company electricity, we can look forward to brown outs and black outs. At the rate of new technology adoption, power loads just keep rising. Appliances and computers may not run during peak hours. And worse – you will know when your neighbor is hogging power and vice versa.

  •     Will we be shamed into energy conservation? Or we will simply be controlled through rations.
  •     Control and privacy are forefront in a world of limited shared resources and AI. How data gathered thru AI is revealed is up to our collective agreements.
  •     More energy efficient buildings, better batteries, low energy use appliances will eventually reduce our power needs.
  •     Real time urban data will be gathered from people, buildings, and things to create useful knowledge about how we use cities that will inform design and user decisions.

AI Design Build

At long last, design and construction are becoming data-rich. Next they will become self-improving, then self-assembling, and finally self-designing. Yet self-expression is a human talent, not a computerized algorithm. Creativity as well as the relationships, communication, and decision-making require humans.

Following in the wake of manufacturing, construction is being automated. First with material deliveries, then tools, and finally with self-constructing buildings. Experiments with robots have reached demonstration levels. Consumer goods distribution centers have hesitated on robot investment because they have peak seasons and the robots sit idle otherwise. Construction operates project by project to maintain a steady workflow, only slowing for economic cycles. Without too much trouble, a city will be self-constructing, particularly useful for infrastructure and repetitive projects.

  •     Without human intervention and oversight, cities will become dull and cookie cutter. Our job will be to alter the cities before we learn to hate them. We require imperfection to love a place.
  •     A full accounting of all materials and resources in a region will enable local distributions, recycling, adapting, and re-allocating of supplies and scheduling maintenance.
  •     Dominating those asset allocations will make or break various urban areas. Urban negotiations open a whole new field.
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Will AI cities like us, be our friend?

The self-aware, self-improving, sentient city will adopt the patterns of the existing city. Machines are purely rational. Humans are intuitive, emotional, and imperfect plus we are culturally determined. A machine can only copy or replicate these characteristics, which might be flawless. That’s the problem with the conversant computer. It does not know how to improvise, make errors, be human.

We love our houses, favorite shops, parks, even our cars. These attachments will become exponentially deeper. They will remember key dates and react on cue. They will know our habits and when we break routine. If your house can talk to you, play scrabble, fix you meals, layout your clothes, wake you up, start the coffee, prepare your shower, order the groceries, complete your reports, and sing you to sleep, will you believe it cares for you?

  •     We will need retraining on the meaning of artificial.
  •     Will we ever be able to move? Will we strip the house-friend of its knowledge and mourn its death?
  •     Will AI computers strive for self-preservation? And to self-replicate? Will they hoard or aggressively acquire materials to create their projects?
  •     Will they share our most precious secrets? Doesn’t Facebook do it every single day? We won’t need to report our sins; the shaman and tax officer and probably your mom, daughter, enemies, and neighbors will already know.

The city’s brain

As we build swarms of self-improving intelligent machines, we will need a meta-AI to monitor and coordinate. That’s HAL9000. Will we be able to control it? I rather doubt it. Furthermore, how safe will that concentrated power be? Imagine the cyber attacks and security threats when so much power is held by one entity.

  •     When all the machines are hooked together as an army of super-intelligent computers, are they controllable?
  •     Moreover, will we become part of the super-intelligence? Notice that Singularity U includes neuroscience. Later, we will look at transhumanism and our active participation in collective intelligence.
Planit_masterplan

Cities will be smart. They will be more beautiful, more exquisitely made in parts and more assembled ad hoc in other parts. More resourceful and more transparently knowable. Unlike today’s “dumb cities” that sit like the dead materials that they are, future cities will be alive in a Biomimicry sense, evolving, learning, and growing. The caveat is huge. A city as a functioning extension of the people may be the most intoxicating experience we can imagine. The most creative and potentially invasive intelligent computers will work in partnership with people. We have to be able to let go, opt out. Increasingly, it will be impossible unless we demand it.

Tomorrow, B is for Backward.

Images: Robotic construction in NYC on ArchDaily, Ford Sync Destination Eco-navigation system and New Songdo in Fast Co, automated road trains on Crunchgear, PlanIT Masterplan, Geminoid robot.

ABC’s of 21st century cities: January series

Overpopulated_cities
As an architect, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we are constantly imagining and shaping it. Other than our own brilliant new buildings (she says modestly), we usually think it will be a lot like today– only more. Architects are project-oriented. Space is our domain; we think in terms of a particular situation.

As a futurist, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we can freely replace one future with another and fearlessly explore decades, even centuries, ahead. Futurists are large-pattern, context-oriented. Time is our domain; we think in terms of decades more than years.

I marry these two methods to try to understand where our cities are headed. This month, I offer you an alphabet of future cities, twenty-six slices that reveal, explore, and imagine what we might build and how we might live, work, and play in 2020, 2030, or 2050.

Sound like fun?

Singapore_kids
Tech in the city

If you track urban development, you hear a lot of the same concepts. Walkable, livable, quality of life (QOL), redensify, green/LEED/BREEAM buildings, green cities, smart cities, smart growth, smart grid, new urbanism, mixed use, complete streets, car-free, bike highways, bus rapid transit (BRT), transit oriented design, transect zoning, multi-modal transportation. Rather than being “the future,” these ideas are happening in some cities today, so-called ‘used futures’.

  •     Our most advanced, high performing cities are technology-intense. In these gazelle cities, people believe innovation is part of their DNA. They aim to show the rest of the world how to build, more specifically, how to live. New transportation, environmental, and communication methods take root. Hi-tech companies and creative people flock to these Meccas.
  •     On the other end of the spectrum in African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cities, people wish for indoor plumbing, clean water, fresh air. The same enemies that London and New York conquered in the 1800s strangle the people of Lagos and New Delhi today but at a mind-boggling scale.
What happens is a massive urban divide. The greater our technological advances, the greater the gap. Somewhere, some city will still be fighting to supply basic services with primitive solutions while cities with the highest levels of tech reach further and further, stretching the extremes.

It’s not all about resources and technology.

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The urban divide occurs inside of countries too. Portland, Oregon began a green revolution in the late 1970s resulting in a dense, mixed use, transit oriented city. Dallas continues to bank on more highways and low density perimeter sprawl. The varied approaches reflect different priorities and offer radically different lifestyles. Over time, these bets will pay off or they will cost the cities and their residents dearly.

Paradoxically primitive sometimes works better than intensive technology. The current generation may be the first to employ just-right-tech or even un-tech. As a new form of intelligence, future gens will know when to switch off. Similarly for cities, high-rise, high-speed tech is not always the most livable, functional, beautiful, or viable response.

What will we do?

Urbanpop
In the next forty years, the world population is likely to grow by two billion people. Nearly all of those people will live in

the cities of emerging economies, half in slums and nearly all in poverty. In contrast, western countries are faced with aging infrastructure and older populations. America is expected to grow by as much as one hundred million people, one-third as immigrants.

It’s said that this is the century of urbanization. In 2007, for the first time in history, the majority of people live in cities. We built American cities according to what we knew in 1950, just as Europe built cities with technologies and lifestyles of prior centuries. Now we know more.

  •     Unlike any other time in history, cities and buildings are ready to be more than a roof and four walls. They can expand our quality of life or destroy it. Beyond shelter, buildings and cities can feed our spirits and replenish the environment. Or they can be a curse, a deathtrap, a monstrous albatross.
Coke_kid
26 significant, provocative, intriguing ideas

In ten, twenty, thirty years, how will you build, work or live differently? What will it mean to your children or to their children? Will your city, your neighborhood, your home feed your soul or anger you?

Imagine if you were suddenly transported to 1950. Would you support the Federal Highway Act? The Urban Renewal Act? Removal of trolleys and cable car systems? All of these decisions shaped how we live today. In hindsight, what would you do?

Standing in 2011, we have equally momentous choices. Maybe even bigger. January 1, let’s begin: A is for Artificial Intelligence.

Images: Urbanization on TriasWiki, Portland Street Cafe, Singapore kids, Urban Population chart.

Future of Work – Futurists’ Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #futureofwork

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its thirdtwitter chat on Thursday, December 9, 2010 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. Use these hashtags: #apf #futrchat. You can find information about the first two futrchatshere.

How do you see the future of work?

Work_hate_paperpariah_fcc

An organization called

The Future of Work is composed of HR, IT, and facilities professionals. On their website, they make several provocative claims.

  • Work is no longer a place you go; it’s what you do.
  • The future of work will be radically different than anything we know today, or can even imagine. In the economy of the future people will get their work done where and when they need to-or want to.
  • Managing work and talent in today’s dynamic, distributed, mobile economy is incredibly challenging-but highly rewarding. We offer guidance and advice on how to succeed in a world that’s being turned upside down by technology, globalization, demographics, and environmental concerns.

Questions about the future of work

As we were planning this chat, Jennifer Jarratt and I wondered about the future of professions. Our respective fields, journalism and architecture, are both traditional professions that are not sure of their futures, or if they will even remain professions per se.

  1. Will we continue with disciplinary silos? Do specialty fields still serve a purpose or are they a thing of the past?
  2. How will aging affect work?
  3. How do knowledge migration, crowdsourcing, co-creating, social media, and communication technology change the ways we work?  Are trades or professions more affected?
  4. How does globalization of manufacturing and services affect work? And the corresponding notion of localization?
  5. What is the connection between the current lackluster job market and the future of work? Is a weak job market a temporary anomaly or the shape of things to come?

How will we work in 2020, 2030, or even 2050 differently than today? Here is aTED video by Jason Fried, author of Rework, about the future of work, featured on CNN last week. He proposes non-talk times to enable creative work without distractions. I love that idea. Is it realistic?

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I bookmarked a few links on the future of workhere.

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat to share your ideas about the future of work. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education and thefuture of money. Both were exhilarating experiences. I think people learned and shared at a pace you cannot find. If I had to say one word, it’s intense.

Jennifer Jarratt will pitch provocative questions and I will add color commentary. You can add your own colors, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and reveal your ideas about the future of work. Together, we will make some sense about future possibilities.

After all, we all care deeply about the future of work. Its what we do, how we spend a great deal of time, an identity, and how we create, produce, and build wealth. Are you working in a new paradigm, or are you supporting a current or past way of work?

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What do you think will be the future of work?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #apf #futrchat in your tweets and the Question # such as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to twitter.com, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:hate my job andwork and unity on flickr creative commons

The future of harmony and cities #architecture

During the past month, Venezuelan architect Ana Manzo @anammanzo hosted a series about harmony on her blog The Place of Dreams. Mine was the 14th post. Who knew that architects, designers, contractors, and related folks could find so much richness in one word? You can read the entire series here.    

What is harmony?

My blogging friends defined harmony beautifully onAna’s blog. They found harmony in rock and roll, poetry, nature, relationships, ancient sacred ground, and architecture. Diverse elements cooperate into a completely new sound, different and more complex than the individual notes. Harmony is not a state or condition; it’s a perfect balance achieved by coordinating diversity. Through complexity, we find unity.

Ana said harmony is love. I think that’s right. Love sees us and accepts us as we are. The Greeks agreed. They invented the word – harmonia – to mean joint agreement or accord. It’s compromise, joining, and fitting together. 

My question is: are we becoming more harmonious? And how do we find harmony in cities? First, I want to add one more idea to harmony – rebellion.

Is harmony always good?

Are there times we prefer life beyond accord?  Foucault fretted over harmony, which he saw as oppression, pressure to conform. That’s the rebel’s voice. I would call that pushing limits, testing the edges of conformity. In harmony, the notes desire each other, respect difference, and create a new sound, unlike any single note. They seek a community of notes, joining the most extreme, and all are transformed, transcendent, into a richer, more complex voice.   

We need single notes too. They come first, the ingredients of harmony. And the further they push, the more complex, varied, intriguing harmonies emerge. Individual notes must be celebrated. Sometimes I wantMonk.   

How does harmony work in architecture?

Architects argue about harmony. Christopher Alexander believes that great towns and cities blend the parts into the whole. “When you actually get all those elements correct, at a certain point you begin to feel that they are in harmony.” Peter Eisenman claims that disharmony and harmony exist in the cosmos; we need both. He fights for individual expression.

Is it possible that these opposites are two sides of the same coin? These modern lions fight over the same terms. Disharmony and incongruity aim at order, as does harmony. Some choose to conform and others fight. That is a mindset, the either/or way of 20th century thinking.

Bilbao_bridge_zubizuri_-flickr

Here’s true harmony to me – both/and.

Both compatible buildings and buildings that contrast. Exceptions prove the rule. Are Bilbao’s historical buildings more memorable next to Calatrava’s Zubizuri footbridge?

Southlawn_w_nelson_stevenhollc

Do you

feel greater attraction to the Nelson-Atkins Museum thanks to Holl’s ultra-modern addition?

Wall_washmonument_flickran0nym

Does the

Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial open your eyes to the heroics of the neo-classical monuments? To me, thats the role of harmony to celebrate difference. And we still need powerful, single notes.

Too much conformity, you get suburbs or Disney-fake, like a one-dimensional painting. Too much clashing, you get single notes competing, Las Vegas-style. If single voices are never heard, if remarkable buildings are never seen, the city goes flat. 

What is harmony in society?

Harmony, you might say, begins inside of us and informs our relationship with the universe. It works through me to we, to things, to nature, to cosmos.

Claire Graves invented a developmental model of humans, societies, even civilization calledSpiral Dynamics. The nine tiers of self-awareness (color -coded) ormemes move towards greater harmony and connectivity – instinctive (beige), animistic (purple), egocentric (red), authoritative (blue), achiever (orange), consensual (green), integral (yellow), holistic (turquoise), next? (coral).

With more people, interconnectivity expands – or needs to. So we learn and adopt better models. It’s also what gives us hope – belief in a better future. With environmental problems and planet limits, our technological and social developments are barely staying ahead of our need to live together, our urge for harmony. Sometimes we fail catastrophically.

Plus you never forget those former memes; you incorporate them and add more parts, more skills and choices. You become more fully human. As societies, we are more connected than we possibly imagined. In short, we continually strive for greater harmony.

Spiral_dynamics_200k

What is greater harmony in cities?

We started with caves and we ended in suburbs? Be still my heart! Surely we can improve on that. These one-note communities were just a stop on the way, an orange meme. Sometimes we really blow it, given too much power too soon, a baby with matches. And then we are forced to fix our errors, where the hardest part may be admitting it.

Jane Jacobs claimed, “Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination.”

Here’s how I see these memes in cities. Beige – caves. Purple – primitive tribal villages. Red – Ancient Greece, Rome. Blue – fortressed cities, castles, cathedrals. Orange – industrialization, skyscrapers, suburbs. Green – new urbanism, sustainable design, revitalization. Yellow – living cities, restorative. Turquoise – adaptive, co-creating, biomimicry. Coral – too soon to know; biogenetics, nano, neurotech, transhumanism, singularity?

Dubai_sketch_200k

Harmony Tattoos

We are re-calculating, re-examining our lifestyles. How to become more harmonious, to live with seven, eight, or nine billion people? How to be in balance with the planet, to replenish resources rather than deplete them? And how to cultivate quality.

How do you love life? How do your clothes, home, city, your tattoos express that and feed your spirit?

The moderns (not in design, but in thinking) believe in an oppositional blue/orange mindset. My way or no way. Green thinkers want to cooperate, create communities, and build sustainably. Yellows adapt on the fly, see wholes and parts, and are comfortable with constant change, in other words, harmony. Different notes combine to express entirely new sounds while still celebrating you. 

Our cities need to be that way. I’d say the first harmonious cities will be yellow.  

Harmony is love and we grow towards it. Not harmony all sugar and sweet, pastoral utopias, but with all the tangs and twists of human nature wound together as separate strands for resilience. It’s the tattooed city, visibly expressing who we are and who we want to be.

  • What color is your city? What’s harmony to you?

Images, videos:  Thelonious MonkRound About Midnight; CalatravaZubizuri Foot Bridge, Bilbao, Spain; HollNelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, USA; Maya LinVietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington DC.

 

Where do you find happiness? Holl’s Museum Add’n in Kansas City, guest post for @Antony_DiMase #architecture

Antony DiMase of DiMase Architects  in North Fitzroy, Australia invited me to sharea place that makes me happy. Their blog series  Places That Make Me Happy was inspired by my Hilarious Cities essay. His firm does beautiful work, check them out. They constantly explore ways to help people see architecture differently and be a bit braver about design. You can find my original post here.

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For decades, I grumbled about the complete lack of world class modern architecture in Kansas City. Great places make us better humans. When we see it and experience it every day, we become more creative, even visionary. Excellence breeds more excellence.  Call it the reverse of the “broken window theory.”

When the Board of Trustees for the 1933 Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art initiated an international competition to select the architect for the new Bloch addition, I leaped for joy. Of the six star architects, only Steven Holl defied the committee’s instructions to connect with the broad Beaux Arts entrance façade. Instead, his addition attached to the short eastern end of the building. Even more compelling, instead of an above-grade structure that would diminish the park-like setting, Holl buried the addition and mounted five channel glass “lenses” on the roof for daylight. His radical originality springs from these two acts of rebellion.

Those five lenses are among the most ingenious inventions of the last decade. Holl defines their counterpoint with the existing building as the stone and the feather. The massive heft of the original limestone structure sits solidly on the ground while the white channel-glass boxes seem to dance lightly down the sloped landscape. Their glow at night is pure architecture magic.

My favorite space, the Naguchi Gallery near the extreme end of the building, opens directly onto the main lawn. After experiencing a series ramps and underground galleries, a panorama of the original building bursts into your view, framed by an expansive window panel. The effect is sublime; it always brings tingles to my skin.

When I seek inspiration, I skip to the Nelson and visit Holl’s masterpiece. I am happy now.

  • What places make you happy?  

Images: interior, south lawn, distance shot Steven Holl Architects; connection detail Goldberger inThe New Yorker; at night w/ trees Washington Post. 

Future of Money – Futurists’ Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #futureofmoney

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its second twitter chat on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. Use these hashtags: #apf #futrchat. 

Venessa Miemis  will join us as an invited guest  to share thoughts from  her recentSIBOS  keynote presentation and FOM research.

   

The Future of Money 

Beyond the currency arguments between nations, another more fundamental debate brews. You could say that it’s the difference between people who trust the traditional banking system and those that believe there’s a better way based on transparency, open data, and social bonds.   

Venessa Miemis ,Gabriel Shalom , and Jay Cousins developed a short film,“The Future of Money,”  for the recentSIBOS conference  in Amsterdam. In a series of interviews, Gen Y’s say why they feel distrust or a disconnection with the current system and what they see emerging in the social currency space.  

Updates 

On twitter, you can find tweets by searching for #futureofmoney. Here’s some recent posts pertaining to SIBOS.

  • Venessa believes that traditional financiers and Gen Y’s areliving in different worlds.   Her proposals and concerns: 
    1. Intelligent investing opportunities likeGroupon  local deals but for investing.
    2. Real-time data visualizations for money management likemint.com .
    3. Social network analysis for co-production opportunities that helps visualize network connections
    4. Local currency projects such asMetacurrency .com
  • Gabriel Shalom  comments on responses to the film andthe future of the FOM .
  • Chris Skinner , a financial expert and co-founder of Shaping Tomorrow website, attended Sibos and executive produced the video. He wroteblog responses  to Venessa’s ideas and added a number of other points.

And here’s a few developments since SIBOS.

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What do you think?

I’m watching to see what people believe about money. We all use it and by necessity, we each manage it for ourselves and/or for businesses. Is there anything more emotional than the power of currency? And how do you define currency? Economic, social, environmental, political, cultural?

What is money? What does it do and what does it mean? Are you worried about the future of money? Or is it all roses ahead? What drivers could plague money, and cause drastic change? Are we at or nearing a turning point? Is there a significant, fundamental gap between financial experts and us, the regular people? If so, is the gap in communications, worldviews or something else? Is the distinction or gap useful or an us against them battle? Will it be useful in the future?

I wonder if we will see a range of ideas, conflicts of opinions, or will we agree quite readily on the future of money. What, do you believe, are the big issues for money by 2020? Or by 2030? Is it social/community, trust, transparency, or are other lumps or gems on the horizon?

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and say what you believe will be the future of money. At our premier chat last month on the future of education, an intensive hour flew by and the results gave a snapshot of many varied perspectives and experiences, like a speed scan or survey.

As we did last month, Jennifer Jarratt will pitch provocative questions and I will cajole, contribute, coax, and retweet the saltiest items. You can do the same, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and teach, inform, persuade, thrill, or terrify us about the future of money.

What do you think will be the future of money?

Image: Organic Grapefruit onThe Value of a Dollar Project by Jonathan Blaustein

Giving thanks for imagination, creative genius, and flow. #letsblogoff #architecture

In tribute to November’s annual eat-fest, the Let’s Blog Off  gang asks: What makes us thankful? You can read my blogging friends’ thoughts on Thanksgiving here . They will make you laugh, cry, remember, relate, and even get organized. I am thankful for people who dare to imagine and push boundaries. Maybe people like you?  

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One of my very closest friends knew a lot about imagination. You could say

 Gordon was a creativity guru or a midwife to ideation. He used metaphoric stories to reveal the mysteries of originality and release the visions you hold deep inside.

For instance, a cow chewing its cud for hours performs the miracle of making milk. Creativity is like that. The imagination needs freedom to gestate. You can’t measure it, you can’t see it, and you sure as hell can’t sell it until the idea is ready. That peculiar work of invention frustrates bean counters no end. Yet new ideas depend on wandering, experimenting, failing, and recreating, on linking thoughts and images in strange wondrous ways and allowing explosions.

I live for the moments of feeling that rush of ideas, the joy of inspiration, being in the flow. It’s an out of body time where I may not notice food or drink and surely not time passing. I’m the cow in the field imagining a world that does not yet exist.

Every day someone is creating something so startling that you can hardly breathe when you see it. Your body reacts, prickles on the neck, tears of pure awe. You feel their genius. Yet few seeds of brilliance ever escape the womb of the imagination. We forget them before we can draw or write. The sketch doesn’t fulfill the vision. Others throw up roadblocks; it’s too large, too small, too bizarre, too too too many lines. Who knows, someone says it’s just too… And it will never be built.

Revelations 2010

This year,ultra towers,kinetic structures,new towns,urban agriculture, andflying security robots transformed our images of 21st century cities. A few are absolute revelations. I am thankful for the spectacular ideas and courageous acts of imagination and fortitude that survived the maze of barriers and naysayers. 

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1. The Seed Cathedral reframes architecture as sustainable and ephemeral – a new paradigm beyond theCrystal Palace and theblur building. 60,000 shimmering filaments carry Millennium seeds that will give birth to a future bio-diverse forest. 

 

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2. In the aftermath of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake,Architecture for Humanity bypassed the usual routes of bureaucracy and organized working communities of Haitians toenvision a vibrant future, starting with new housing and schools. 

3. Living City Design Competition recognizes cities that are making extraordinary efforts to envision a socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative civilization. Can your city meet the challenge? Submissions due in February.

 

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4. The secretive

Underbelly Project flaunts the work of street artists on subterranean walls of an abandoned New York subway station. Watch an inspiring short video via the NY Times. 

  

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5. Outside Mexico City,

Container City adapts lowly shipping containers into a miraculous mixed use village. Imagine what we can do with junk.

 

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6. Non-Sign II near the Canadian border conveys a simple message of… air.

7. Of the hundred-odd books I devoured, a few absolutely blew my mind. Do not miss:The Original Green by Steven Mouzon (drawn from deep knowledge, a manifesto on society, sustainability, and architecture),Cartographies of Time by Rosenberg and Grafton (stunning images of ancient to contemporary timelines reveal belief systems through the ages), andThe Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca Costa (has innovation outpaced our brains?)

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What sparks your imagination?

Do you look for people with purple hair, unexpected shoes, carrying a tube or drawing tools, or walking with a different gait? They hold some particular energy, the bodacious ideas churning in their gut, planning to capture the thing before it disappears. Perhaps that person is you.

It’s a bit of madness, by some standards. We all have it. We may camouflage it, forget it, fail to cultivate it, but we surely flung it around as children. Back when we wore fuscia boots, finger painted, and skipped. Someone somewhere told us our drawing, singing, dancing were not good enough and bang!  The imagination snapped inwards, afraid of further castigation. Is yours still hiding, damaged by thoughtless words, snooty looks?   

Gordon’s final lesson: you have a masterpiece inside you. If you go to your grave without painting it, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you. 

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the ideas that you share and the miracles you create. 

What makes you thankful?

    • Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.

      You might say, “The world outside is vast and intricate.

      There are wheatfields and mountain passes,

      And orchards in bloom.

      You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up

      In the dark with eyes closed.

      Listen to the answer.

      There is no “other world.”

      I only know what I’ve experienced.

      You must be hallucinating.  –Rumi

Images:Imagination Allows by Gaping Void Hugh McLeod; Lead Pencil StudioNon-Sign II, Blaine, WA;Container City, Mexico;Seed Cathedral at Shanghai Expo by Thomas Heatherwick;The Underbelly Project, New York City;Boatanic Floating Farms, Amsterdam 

Big Lessons for Working from Home – Guest Post on Building Moxie

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You’ve finally wrangled a few days of work-at-home from the boss. Or you’re now the boss and the grunt too. Like 47% of the population who want to work from home, you’ve found your freedom and now you’re faced with your first workday at home.

The freedom is terrifying.

To get you past that first Monday morning scream, you might want a few tips. Because at this point I’ve done it all. I’ve drudged through waiting tables, selling soap, sewing uniforms, and cubicle work; and I’ve owned the office. Now I gleefully occupy a corner of my house, having conquered the fears of the liberty-challenged.

  1. Setting the Pace. You are the boss and the employee. We all know at the office, one or the other can be stupid but never both. Figure out when you hit your stride during the day and dedicate those hours to employee jobs, the real productivity, the “big rock” projects. The rest of the time, you can be the boss.
  2. Home Alone. You are working alone. That is, unless you count the dog, fish, or couch. To kick my collaboration addictions, I create journal conversations, draw diagrams, take long runs and walks, post trial ideas on my blog, check the twitter clan, and have built a network of worthy reviewers and co-conspirators. You really are not alone. You just work alone far more than before.
  3. Imaginary Time. You no longer participate in daily rituals like rush hour, water cooler chats, lunches with the gang, commutes, or even normal dress-up routines. All told, that’s easily four hours of saved time per day, right? That’s like going to Macy’s sale of 30% off, spending $100, and expecting $30 cash. Not in your wallet, is it? Same deal: that four hours a day is gone, poof! You will never know where it went. There is no savings; there’s only convenience.
  4. Power Door. You are going to need a door. Or a crystal clear sign. I have an upstairs room with no external connections where I seriously work. Then I have a downstairs desk where I do everything else and quasi-connect to family life. So I see both situations. The door solves everything. If you don’t have your separate space, make a truly obnoxious sign that says: “Do Not Interrupt the Interrupter in Chief.”
  5. Double Used Home. You’ll be buying more groceries, toilet paper, and electricity. Call these purchases work-at-home expenses. It also means that your house gets a little dirtier with more dishes to wash. Unless of course, you never notice dust bunnies anyway. Then it’s just normal. Will a future buyer ask: has this house been driven hard or been a ‘Sunday drive’ kind of house? Mine’s 24/7 now, so is my neighborhood; it’s like meeting a whole new place.
  6. Real Clothes Wednesday. More laundry, less dry cleaning. More tennies, fewer hard heels. More pony tails, fewer blow dries. As I sit here in my running shorts and hoodie, I remember when I thought I would always wear suits to work, even at home. *laugh* Trips are bundled to minimize days in full regalia. Hey, I’ll be in real clothes on Wednesday; lunch then?
  7. No is Beautiful. I guard my time like I never did when I was working in a team. Saying no to a project was tantamount to putting people out hungry. We aimed for yes. Yes to that new police station, school renovation, downtown planning project, the neighborhood group, design juries, and various boards or committees. Now I monitor promises because I’m it. You’ll learn yes-with-limits and, sometimes painfully, no.
  8. Structure or Not. We skipped the apprenticeship program for at-home work, didn’t we? You are making it up. What time to start, stop, and take breaks? When is something ready to go? In project teams and schedules, the rhythm set the office mood. Now the rhythm is my rhythm. At the same time, the family has a different drum beat. Two tips: put your major due dates and meetings on the family calendar. And don’t start the laundry on a work day. It will wait.
  9. Not-Spent Money. Live-work at home is cheaper. Lunch at home, slouch clothes, minimal dry cleaning, less gas, parking, wear-and-tear on the car (or dump the car) will soon offset the added desk, computer, power, and groceries. Shall you splurge? The first check: scan it, frame the copy, and then go back to work. The first $100,000: nice dinner, then back to work. And start figuring out when you should sell the business – 2 years, 10 years, longer? Make a plan; build your assets. Even if you keep it longer, do it by choice. Invest in freedom.

Every day that you get up and work in your hoodie and tennis shoes is a good one. When you pick up your kids from school or stop for an hour to shoot a game of hoops or take a run, be happy.

Working from home just shrank your ecological footprint dramatically. No office waiting for you all night, no house sitting empty all day. It’s full occupancy.

Work in a team telecommuting from home or work alone gives life new balance and, if you love your work, new meaning. You are the boss. And you are the grunt. Relish it.

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